updated 9/28/2006 3:03:33 PM ET 2006-09-28T19:03:33

Some 526,000 batteries used in ThinkPad notebook computers worldwide are being recalled in the latest problem with batteries made by Sony Corp., the Consumer Product Safety Commission said Thursday.

IBM Corp., based in Armonk, N.Y., and Lenovo Inc. of Research Triangle Park, N.C., recalled the rechargeable, lithium-ion batteries used in ThinkPad computers because they may pose a fire hazard. About 168,500 of the batteries were sold in the U.S., while the rest were distributed worldwide, the CPSC said.

It was the fourth recall in recent months involving Sony batteries believed to be defective. In August, Dell asked customers to return 4.1 million faulty laptop batteries and Apple recalled 1.8 million batteries worldwide, warning they could catch fire. Last week, Toshiba said it was recalling 340,000 laptop batteries due to a problem that caused the laptops to sometimes run out of power.

In the latest recall, Lenovo cited a potential risk following one confirmed report of a Sony battery overheating and causing a fire that damaged the notebook computer. The batteries were sold between February 2005 and September 2006, separately or along with ThinkPad computers. They were distributed by IBM until Lenovo, a Chinese computer maker, bought IBM’s personal computer division in May 2005.

The reported battery fire, which occurred in an airport terminal as the user was boarding a plane, caused enough smoke that a fire extinguisher was needed to put it out. There was minor property damage and no injuries were reported.

Julie Vallese, spokeswoman for CPSC, said the overheating problem did not appear to be linked to the defects cited in the Apple and Dell cases. But IBM and Lenovo sought a recall as a precaution given Sony’s past problems, she said.

In the previous Dell and Apple recalls, Sony said batteries could catch fire without warning in rare cases when microscopic metal particles came into contact with other parts of the battery cell, leading to a short circuit. Typically a battery pack will power off when there is a short circuit; on occasion the battery would catch fire instead.

In a statement Thursday, Sony said it was working with the CPSC on a worldwide replacement program for certain battery models because of the series of recent incidents. “We believe that this program is in the best interest of both our customers and all consumers,” Sony said.

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